Christmas comes with a funny quirk of high expectations. And it’s not just the children who have high hopes about how the festive period will pan out. Us adults also linger on the edge of wanting Christmas day (and every other Yuletide experience) to be special and memorable, which can often lead to high stress for us parents.
We all want to spend time with family and friends over Christmas but there is only so much we can do. We have to appreciate that each and every one of us will have individual boundaries we will not wish to cross this year. On the other hand, some of our friends and family may show their disappointment when we are not as available to them as they would like.
We have to remember that maintaining plans this Christmas will always come with managing our boundaries and expectations, and quite possibly those of our family.
So before our own expectations get out of hand, we can learn to understand how we envision the Christmas period to be.
Are we exhausted from the year and looking forward to some quiet movie days as we dig into the box of roses with the kids? Are we excited about having a big family gathering this year but know that one large gathering may be enough for us?
To manage our own expectations we need to look at what we can physically and mentally achieve this Christmas without overloading our schedule and overburdening our work load. We need to be realistic about our boundaries and encourage others to not overstep the mark.
Once we understand our expectations and manage them accordingky, we can help our kids, our family members, and our friends manage theirs when it comes to how we can all celebrate together over Christmas.
So, how can we hold our own space this Christmas without causing arguments or dashing the hopes of those we love, and especially, how can we have the holiday we are looking forward to?
With so much going on at Christmas it’s a good idea to look after your stress and anxiety levels by keeping them as low as possible. The best way to do this is to prioritise your wishlist for Christmas, and I’m not talking about presents. Prioritise who are the people you absolutely must see this Christmas, the events you would love to attend with your family, and the days when you need a break from the bedlam.
If something is likely to stress you out, such as rocking up to your mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve for lunch when you are still pulling in the presents, rearrange with her for a time more suitable. You can’t set boundaries with family unless you are aware of what you need and they know your limitations. Let them know if you are simply not available (you don’t have to give a reason unless you want to!).
Do What Works For You and Your Family
Christmas is a time of upheaval. Happy upheaval but disruption none the less.
Our kids are out of sync, out of routine, overly excited, and brimming with enthusiasm for what’s to come. We may be invited to a Christmas Eve party, a holiday brunch, or ice-skating with cousins. The invitations are flowing in and our kids are likely to want to say yes to everything but it’s not always as simple as that. Parties may clash, timings may not be ideal for a baby’s nap schedule, you may not be able to afford it, or you may simply be too exhausted with the comings and goings of everything that needs to be done for Christmas.
Invitations are a wonderful thing and spending time with family and friends is even better, but throughout the year, and especially at Christmas as the overwhelm grows, we must remember to do what works for us and our family.
Let your family and friends know what you will and won’t be able to achieve this year in terms of celebrating with them. Instead of focusing on the expectations they have for Christmas, think about your own expectations and what you are hoping to get out of this holiday period. Try not to take on other people’s emotions and reactions if they are disappointed and help them understand your reason for not being able to attend or for only staying for a few hours.
Learn to Say No
Don’t be afraid to express your own needs and to say no if necessary. We may feel as though we have to say yes to everything but you don’t have to bring the salad if it adds to an already huge mountain of work for you. You don’t have to man your best friend’s craft table at the Christmas fair. And you don’t have to be host, or guest, or the expert bow maker. You can say no.
Start saying yes to yourself more by saying no to others. These are strong boundaries for you to maintain and honour.
The once loved Christmas Eve party in your mother’s house may no longer suit you now that you have your own family. Traditions change. If you now wish to start a new tradition with your kids on Christmas Eve remember it’s perfectly ok to make that shift. Your parents may be disappointed as an end of an era approaches but remember you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. They will come to realise that a sit down dinner is much too stressful for you with young toddlers who find it difficult to sit at a dinner table for long periods of time. Instead, you could suggest a new tradition with your parents as you reinvent gatherings to suit this stage of your life with babies and young children.